TULSA (AP) — Freshman Lindy Waters made the game-winning basket as Oklahoma State edged in-state rival Tulsa 71-67 Saturday, but both Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood and Tulsa’s Frank Haith saw different keys to what both agreed was an unsightly affair.
Underwood pointed to the toughness and resourcefulness of freshman guard Brandon Averette, who stepped in for leading scorer Jawun Evans and scored a career-high 17 points with three assists and three steals, helping the young Cowboys, now 7-2, snap a six-game losing streak in true road games.
“I love our freshmen, they’re fearless,” Underwood said. “I’ve seen veteran teams get punched in the mouth like they did in the second half and fold, but they hung in there. They’ve got great heart and swagger. I’m proud of what they did.”
Haith was left to rue his team’s 18 turnovers and 41-30 rebounding deficit.
“That’s where we lost the game,” he said. “It’s very difficult to win when you give up 17 offensive rebounds and have 18 turnovers. They are going to be aggressive on the ball and you can’t give in to the pressure.”
Waters, one of four freshmen on the floor for OSU throughout many of the key late moments, hit the basket with the shot clock nearing zero and despite tight defense from Tulsa’s Pat Birt. Tulsa had a chance to tie, but Sterling Taplin missed a layup attempt and OSU (7-2) secured the rebound. Fellow freshman Thomas Dziagwa, who made three big second-half 3-pointers, made two free throws to secure the win with less than a second remaining.
Jeffrey Carroll had 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds for OSU. Dziagwa scored 11 points.
Taplin had 16 points and Jaleel Wheeler 15 for Tulsa (4-4). Wheeler’s third 3-pointer of the second half, all from the left corner, gave Tulsa a 60-57 lead with 4:57 to play, its first lead since 15-14. The Cowboys clawed back on a pull-up by Averette, and 3-pointers by Leyton Hammonds and Dziagwa to lead 65-60.
Taplin scored on two drives and made one of two free throws to pull Tulsa to 67-65, then Junior Etou tied the score at 69 on a rebound basket before Waters’ game-winner.
Averette played 37 minutes after playing just eight in a one-point loss to Maryland.
“It was different, but I go against the best point guard in America every day in practice, so that prepared me for it,” Averette said.
Ahead 17-16, the Cowboys took command with a 12-0 run triggered by a Phil Forte 3-pointer and fueled by seven free throws, pushing the lead to 29-16. The Cowboys forced Tulsa into 11 turnovers and had a 13-rebound advantage in leading 38-30 at the break, thanks partly to two late rebound baskets by Mitchell Solomon, including a tip-in at the buzzer.
Both coaches saw positives from their young squads still adjusting to each player’s skills and habits.
Tulsa executed with much better flow on offense in the second half, which Underwood credited to adjustments made by Haith.
“They’ve got an NCAA Tournament team there,” Underwood said of Tulsa. “Did you see their first game? Not very good, but they’ve made tremendous strides. Frank is a very good offensive coach and they did some things in the second half that gave us a lot of trouble.”
“We’re developing. We’re getting better,” Haith said. “I think out best basketball is ahead of us.”
On the other hand, Underwood said his team’s first-half defense, which forced 11 Tulsa turnovers, was as good as the Cowboys have played this year.
“I knew it would be ugly early without Jawun, but I loved our effort,” he said. “That was as hard as we’ve played this year,”
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were without leading scorer Evans (23.6 ppg), out with a bruise of the AC joint in his left shoulder suffered in practice Thursday. Guard Phil Forte also did not start due to a bruised hip but entered at the 15:51 mark. Averette and Carroll replaced them in the starting lineup.
Tulsa: After a 1-for-10 shooting performance in his last game that dropped his season percentage to 31 percent, Pat Birt, Tulsa’s leading returning scorer from a year ago, did not start for the first time this season, and was replaced by freshman Lawson Korita. Korita finished with nine points and Birt had four.
With 9:20 left, Dziagwa made a 3-pointer to give OSU a 53-45 advantage, starting a string of four possessions in which either he or TU’s Wheeler made a 3-pointer. Wheeler’s second left OSU up 56-51.
Oklahoma State is back home Wednesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Tulsa hosts Texas State on Dec. 17.
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